Wow. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I updated this page. I’m going to try to get back to regular posting, but it’s been a wacky summer. Not really busy, at least no more busy than usual, but just a disjointed and sort of random season.
Anyhow, I’d been working on some drafts of a blog I wanted to post about some new (to me) insights God’s been giving me lately. Things that have been growing out of some study and reading and conversations that have been part of the path this wacky summer has been taking. I took some of the stuff I’d been working on and put together a devotional for our youth group this evening on the topic of self-addiction and how basically the problems of the world all come down to our addiction to our own petty agendas, whatever those may be.
To be honest, it was kind of a yawner.
But that’s really not the point. To get to the point, I have to rewind to our Sunday morning service, where Pastor Steve announced that a family in town was in a bit of a critical situation and needed to get moved out of their house today. Brian, one of our Sunday School teachers, asked me if we might get the youth involved. Now, normally, that would have been a no-brainer. We always try to give our youth group those kinds of service opportunities when they crop up. But tonight was our last chance to finalize some plans for an upcoming event and I felt like we really needed to have our regular meeting. Besides, I thought, there would be plenty of help. So we went ahead with business as usual.
But as it turned out, not enough people showed up. At least not enough for the massive amount of work that needed to be done in a VERY short time. So we wrapped up our meeting a half-hour early and took 15 teens and three adults down the road to this house where things needed to be packed, boxed, and loaded on a truck. And we had about an hour to get as much done as we could. Like I said, it was a critical situation.
Now, the cool thing was, the kids didn’t hesitate to step up when they were called on. It would have been easy for them to make excuses or just go home, but every single one of them got on board and went to work. And they worked hard. It was amazing to see how much they accomplished, in addition to the adults that were already there, in such a short time.
And it wasn’t because they had gained some sort of epiphany about focusing on others from my little devotional earlier in the evening. Like I said, it was a bit of a yawner. It was because this generation of teenagers really gets what it means for the rubber to meet the road. Instead of sitting around talking about what Jesus would do, they’d much rather get out and do it. It’s one of the things I’m constantly learning from them the more I’m around them. They live in a world where talk is cheap and action means everything.
So I’m driving a couple of the kids home afterward, and after I dropped them off, I was thinking that they could really be proud of what they did. They really helped a family out who was in need. They served as Jesus would have served.
But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t feel good about it. That’s not to say I felt bad in any way, but it SEEMED like we had accomplished something to feel good about, to be proud of. But I couldn’t get there. Despite the amazing work all the people from our church had gotten done in such a short time, despite the fact that we had undoubtedly showed the face of Jesus to that family, despite the fact that we responded to a call for need, I still felt kind of empty.
Now, I’ve worked on mission and service projects before. And every other time, I came out of the situation feeling really happy to have been able to help people. But tonight, for some reason, it was different.
First of all, I couldn’t get past just being profoundly humbled. That family is living in circumstances that I can barely even imagine…not physical circumstances so much, but emotional. I don’t know their story and it’s truly none of my business, but the distress was palpable. But when I tried to just thank God that I’ve been spared that kind of experience, I was really overcome with an incredible sense of selfishness. How could I be happy about my own circumstances when I’m so baldly confronted with the difficulty of what my neighbor–in a biblical sense–was having to go through. I mean, here I was, going home to a comfortable bed, a loving family, a fridge full of food. But nothing’s really changed for the family we were helping. I mean, a lot of physical work got done that needed to get done, and in some way I hope what we did will help bring them closer to some sort of resolution, that God will use that as he so often does, as just once piece of a very big puzzle that we can’t even see the edges of. But while I’m sleeping on my soft pillow tonight, their struggle will continue. It’s not so much about life not being fair–I’ve come to accept that a long, long time ago–but about how small our efforts can seem sometimes.
Which brings me back to the beginning of this little ramble. It blows my mind how God just strips us down to raw reality sometimes. Here I was, giving a lesson on self-addiction to a bunch of kids from what may arguably be the most self-addicted generation ever to grace the planet. And by the end of the night, I was brought face-to-face with my own self-addiction.
Pride rears its ugly head in some very bizzare ways sometimes. While I am truly and, I think, justifiably proud of our teenagers and the other church members who stepped up to serve, I also wanted to be able to be proud of myself.
But there’s no place for that kind of pride in service to others. Otherwise, it just comes back to us serving ourselves. Our need to be recognized or appreciated. Our need to feel proud of ourselves.
So I’ve decided I’m just going to try to be thankful. Not so much thankful that my circumstances are what they are, but thankful that God uses us to serve one another so that we can show each other who He is. Thankful that I live in a community where people step in to help neighbors in distress. Thankful that I get to work with an amazing group of teenagers who can turn instantly from being bored with a message to putting it into action, and that I get to learn from their passion for living like Christ and not just talking about it. Thankful that somehow God will use what small contribution we made as a piece of reassembling someone’s life.
But mostly, thankful that God is so amazing beyond our ability to grasp, that he somehow knits all of these disjointed events and circumstances together, and makes it mean something for all of us as if He was just talking to us, but we know it has to be about so much more than just us, and that there’s no way I can ever understand that kind of devotion…so all I can do is just be in awe of Him, because that’s the only response that makes any sense at all.
4 thoughts on “A funny thing happened on the way to this blog…”
I believe that the closer we get to God, the more we are aware of our imperfections. We see ourselves in a different light and don’t like what we see.
Your response to the need of others is a kind of compassion that wants to fix it, solve the pain this family is going through, and at the same time appreciate more of what you have.
Don’t you see this is God too? I would be interested to know how many of the other adults felt the same way you did? I suspect that some were just ready to get out of there.
Thank God that you were able to be the Good Samaritan for a family in crisis.
Kettle, I definitely agree with the first part of your statement. That’s one of the scary things about getting closer to God. Lately I’ve been trying to embrace that fear and let it energize rather than demoralize me, but that’s far easier said than done (and perhaps a topic for another blog!!)
I’m not sure on a personal level that my own response had anything to do with the kind of compassion you’re talking about. That might be it for some folks, but for me it’s really about just trying to do the right thing. I know I don’t have the power to solve those kinds of problems, but I do want to be available to allow God to use me in some way that helps Him accomplish His work. Not that I lack compassion in those kinds of situations, but for me that’s not the driving force. For me it’s more about just stepping out in faith and stepping outside of my comfort zone to go where I feel God calling me to go. Honestly, compassion is nowhere on the chart of my spiritual gifts. Actually, that’s one of the reasons I struggle in these situations, because I do have so much trouble relating on an emotional level. But what does motivate me is just this growing need to show God’s love to people in real situations…to try to gain that ground that seems to come so naturally to our teenagers to quit talking and strategizing and just to go and do.
I totally understand your feeling of not having the gift of compassion. I don’t have it either. Sometimes I wish God would send me some because I think sometimes I come across as cold and unfeeling.I really do care.
Anyhow, I was there that Sunday night. Both the youth meeting and at the house. The youth seriously put their money where their mouth was. They came in and did whatever needed to be done and never even asked why they were in this situation. It didn’t matter to them. They got to work with adults they have never worked side by side with and those adults had an amazing experience. (Some told me this)
They also got to minister to a friend they didn’t know was in need. They never treated her any different because of the situation and this other youth felt that COMPASSION. Sometimes it’s not what is said or the emotion that’s shared, it’s the time you give and how you do it. The youth showed me this. They didn’t run up and hug her they just went to work without so much as a word. They had alot of laughter and this other youth saw it and joined in. That was unbelievable! That was compassion!
Barb, you finally posted a reply!! Yea!! Soon you’ll be blogging away on your own!!
I like what you said about how people experience compassion whether those showing it really feel “compassionate” or not. That can be nothing else but God’s compassion coming through. It’s a great reminder that even when I’m not necessarily “feeling it,” God’s grace is so much bigger than my own sense of motivation.